The Plan de San Diego
Tejano Rebellion, Mexican Intrigue
Publication Year: 2013
The Plan of San Diego, a rebellion proposed in 1915 to overthrow the U.S. government in the Southwest and establish a Hispanic republic in its stead, remains one of the most tantalizing documents of the Mexican Revolution. The plan called for an insurrection of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and African Americans in support of the Mexican Revolution and the waging of a genocidal war against Anglos. The resulting violence approached a race war and has usually been portrayed as a Hispanic struggle for liberation brutally crushed by the Texas Rangers, among others.
The Plan de San Diego: Tejano Rebellion, Mexican Intrigue, based on newly available archival documents, is a revisionist interpretation focusing on both south Texas and Mexico. Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler argue convincingly that the insurrection in Texas was made possible by support from Mexico when it suited the regime of President Venustiano Carranza, who co-opted and manipulated the plan and its supporters for his own political and diplomatic purposes in support of the Mexican Revolution.
The study examines the papers of Augustín Garza, a leading promoter of the plan, as well as recently released and hitherto unexamined archival material from the Federal Bureau of Investigation documenting the day-to-day events of the conflict.
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
Series: The Mexican Experience
List of Illustrations
There appeared in South Texas in January 1915 a most remarkable document— the Plan de San Diego. Ostensibly written in the small town of San Diego in Duval County, it called for nothing less than a Hispanic uprising designed to achieve the independence of the Southwest as a Hispanic republic. The Plan proclaimed a genocidal war without quarter...
1. The Plan de San Diego
The most extraordinary indictment ever handed down in an American court was issued in Laredo, Texas, on May 13, 1915, charging nine individuals with conspiring “to steal certain property of the United States of America, contrary to the authority thereof, to wit, the states of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California.”1 Their ...
2. The Plan Surfaces
The Plan de San Diego came to light on January 23, 1915, at the town of McAllen in Hidalgo County, Texas, with the arrest of one Basilio Ramos Jr. He was a Mexican citizen, single, twenty-four years old, five feet eleven inches tall, with dark hair and black eyes, weighing about 140 pounds, and having a mole on the upper left corner of his mouth and a small one on his nose. He had two suitcases filled with expensive...
3. The Magonistas
Magonistas wrote the Plan de San Diego, as is readily apparent from the Plan itself and especially from the “Manifesto to the Oppressed Peoples of America.” General Victoriano Huerta and his followers never showed much interest in social justice issues or in the plight of Hispanics in the United States, much less that of American blacks. The ...
4. The Mexican Connection
As George Crile noted in his extraordinary book on the war against the Russians in Afghanistan, an insurgent movement simply can’t survive unless it has a sanctuary for its fighters.1 Despite some historians’ assertions that the Plan was a liberation movement led by Tejano chieftains Luis de la Rosa and Aniceto Pizaña and was entirely a homegrown...
5. The “Bandit War” Begins
What is important about the Plan de San Diego is how it was used, and this is what some writers who subscribe to the “liberation struggle” interpretation fail to address. Since the magonistas wrote the Plan it was foredoomed to failure. And Huerta’s attempt to regain power in Mexico collapsed with his arrest in El Paso on June 27, 1915. Whether...
6. The “Bandit War” Intensifies
On August 6, 1915, a band of fourteen heavily armed Mexicans (Lon Hill claimed there were twenty-five or thirty) appeared at the village of Sebastian. They robbed a saloon, crossed the railroad track to Alexander’s store, which contained the post office, and looted that establishment. Some of the raiders then proceeded to the granary near...
7. The “Bandit War” Peaks
Twelve mounted and armed Mexicans rode into La Palpa ranch, about twenty miles north of Mission, on September 23, 1915, at about 8 a.m. They remained about an hour and departed with a considerable amount of ranch property, including horses, mules, rifles, and ammunition. The ranch manager, Francisco Guerra, promptly notified the army at...
8. The “Bandit War” Winds Down
Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front Carranza’s strategy succeeded brilliantly. On October 19, 1915, the United States formally extended diplomatic recognition to First Chief Venustiano Carranza as the de facto president of Mexico. The immediate benefit to Carranza was securing permission to rush seven thousand troops on American railroads from...
9. The Plan de San Diego Collapses
Once Carranza withdrew his support the Plan de San Diego movement collapsed. Benjamin Johnson observes that almost overnight the sediciosos “were too busy avoiding the Constitutionalist regulars to continue their campaign in Texas.” But Johnson can’t explain why Constitutionalist regulars, who had been supporting and participating...
10. Intelligence Gathering
Agent Louis Mennet had been assigned solely to investigating the Plan de San Diego,1 but the bureau’s meager resources were urgently needed to investigate other Mexican revolutionary movements such as the felicistas, the followers of Porfirio Díaz’s nephew General Félix Díaz, who were busily plotting in Laredo and Brownsville. There were also...
11. The Plan de San Diego, Phase Two
As the year 1916 opened, the secretary of war, Lindley Garrison, inquired of Secretary of State Robert Lansing whether “in view of the improved conditions in Mexico and on the border,” it was feasible to withdraw “any or all of the troops now on the border from the duty on which they have been engaged and returning them to their permanent...
12. An Improbable Operation
In furtherance of the grand design, León Caballo began expanding his network. Garza dispatched to the city of Puebla one Gerardo Garza González, who began sounding out General Marciano González and his staff regarding recruitment for the Texas enterprise. Gerardo Garza González was a real firebrand— at least on paper. He wrote to Agustín...
13. The Morín Affair
The Hispanic uprising that was to support the planned sedicioso offensive collapsed as a result of the Morín affair. The key figure in uncovering this conspiracy was William Martin Hanson. He had been appointed U.S. marshal for the Southern District of Texas in 1902; he was reappointed in 1906 but resigned. In 1911 he was a private detective...
14. The Bureau Investigates
As these events were unfolding in the spring of 1916, the Mexican situation was deemed so serious that the bureau chief Bruce Bielaski hurried to San Antonio to coordinate the agency’s operations. Bielaski met with the special agent in charge in San Antonio, Robert Barnes, and with J. B. Rogers, the agent stationed in Brownsville. Bielaski...
15. New Raids
The ill-considered invasion plan had been shelved, and on June 13 the Mexican Foreign Office formally notified the American representative in Mexico City that de la Rosa had been captured, this news based on a telegram from the military commandant in Tamaulipas.1 But Carranza fully intended to continue exerting pressure on the United ...
16. The War Crisis
Historian Joseph A. Stout Jr. poses the question: “How close did the two countries come to war in 1916?” Contrary to those historians who believe that war was imminent, Stout maintains that there was no war crisis, for Wilson and Carranza were just “sparring for diplomatic and political advantage in their respective countries.”1...
In the aftermath of the war crisis, General Zuazua moved from Piedras
Negras to Monterrey, leaving there on July 20 for Mexico City.1 Esteban
Fierros moved into the Hotel del Centro in Monterrey, occupying room
13, across the hall from Agustín Garza.
Fierros said he was in dire financial straits. He dispatched José María Zuazua, General Zuazua’s brother, to Mexico City with a letter to General...
Although the Bureau of Investigation remained interested in the Plan de San Diego players, information was not always easy to come by. Agent W. A. Wiseman wrote from San Antonio in July 1916 that he had arranged to send a Mexican informant to Monclova. Unfortunately, the man had backed out, saying he didn’t feel he’d be safe in Mexico....
19. Further Investigation
The bureau continued to rely on a stable of informers, some of whom were less than enthusiastic. Agent Mennet had tried to persuade one Amado Cavazos, who had operated a store in Santa María on the Rio Grande and was now living in Nuevo Laredo, to cross into Laredo and tell what he knew of the San Diego movement, but Cavazos refused,...
20. Later Careers
After the Plan de San Diego withered away, things did not go well for
most of the main protagonists.
The exception seems to have been Basilio Ramos. Unfortunately, we have only isolated glimpses of his later career. In 1917 he was connected with a customs brokerage firm in Nuevo Laredo. In 1919 he again...
21. A Question of Numbers
Frank Cushman Pierce, a Brownsville native and attorney, wrote a history of the lower Rio Grande valley in which he stated that “The author cannot let pass this opportunity to say that during the bandit raids of 1915 many evil influences were brought to bear to clear the country of the Mexicans. To his knowledge more than one was forced to flee and ...
22. Some Interesting Interpretations
A great deal of attention has been devoted to analyzing the Plan de
San Diego itself. These exercises in textual criticism have produced
some notable examples of innovative interpretation.
James T. Bratcher has the distinction of producing the most imaginative interpretation. He examines the religious, historic, cultural, and...
As the prophet Hosea warned, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” What were they thinking? Were the sediciosos too naive to realize that proclaiming— and trying to implement— a genocidal war without quarter wouldn’t have serious— and unpleasant— consequences? You didn’t have to be a college graduate...
Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 23 photographs, 3 maps, 1 appendix
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: The Mexican Experience
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